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Korean Action Crime Drama

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Kim Ji-Woon just keeps getting better and better every time!

  • Apr 3, 2007
In the same vein as "Oldboy" comes "A Bittersweet Life," a movie so good it shocked me when watching it for the first time. It's a violent revenge movie with a gripping story with some fantastic actors such as Byung-hun Lee. He stars as Seon-woo, an enforcer for President Kang, a very dangerous man and if he wants to get rid of people, Seon-woo is the one taking care of it. The most interesting thing about this movie besides the story being so great is Seon-woo himself. The way Byung-hun Lee has captured the character sure tells that he's a great actor and what's keeping the movie alive from beginning to end. Seon-woo seem to know nothing about what it's like to have a "normal" life, as the world he lives in is only filled with evil and violence. He has a hard front, can be violent and nasty without remorse, but its fairly easy to see through all that and see that he has a gentle side as well, and that makes him interesting.

For instance with all the violence going on in the movie it sometimes seems like he has no conscience and couldn't care less about what happens to other people. His face is like stone with no expressions to reveal what he really feels, if anything. But at the same time you know that there's something more underneath it all, like when he's around the mistress you really get to see that there's more than one side to him, and that makes him a really likable character. Actually, the further the movie goes, the more likable he becomes and you can't help but feeling sorry for him which is a really effective part of the overall experience.

As reviewer K. Jones has put it, this movie does mixes violence and emotions in an excellent way, and even if the violence is a bit too brutal at times, you still have a lot of "nice" things to fall back on. There are a lot of action elements and the movie is quite stylish to say the least, but the most important thing is that it's not the least bit shallow and while its entertaining eye candy at times; you still really care about the characters and what's going on. This is easily one of the best Korean movies I've seen this year, and a movie that I will probably enjoy watching many times in the future. If you're a fan of "Oldboy," you're most likely to find "A Bittersweet Life" to be pretty sweet, both dealing with the concept of revenge but very different from each other. I also recommend "A Tale of Two Sisters" which is also fantastic.

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More A Bittersweet Life reviews
review by . April 11, 2011
I knew I’d seen Byung-hun Lee before.  He starred as “Storm Shadow” in G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, and, with what little he was given in that tent-pole summer film from director Stephen Sommers, he did a masterful job, so much so that I knew I’d see him again.  Little did I expect that it would be in a film he had done before G.I. JOE, back in 2005’s A BITTERSWEET LIFE.       Despite its more popular conventions, LIFE is a bit of …
review by . January 05, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
At first impression, it would be easy to dismiss director Kim Jee-Woon's (A Tale Of Two Sisters) film as another revenge thriller from South Korea in the same vein as Park Chan-Wook's "Vengeance Trilogy" and just another John Woo affair such as "The Killer" and "Hard-Boiled". I wouldn't bother writing a new review if this was just a typical revenge flick. "A BITTERSWEET LIFE" (2005) is a dazzling neo-noir gangster film that is a "cardboard" …
review by . March 29, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
I just can't get enough of these Korean revenge films because they're just so different and unique from your normal revenge plot. Now of course a film like this or one of the films from Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance trilogy" won't be appreciated by all simply because some may think they go to far with the amount of violence. It really depends on what your limit is but I had no problem with any of these films.     Sun-woo is a mob enforcer and a darn good one, as you'll see in the …
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A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng) (Hangul: 달콤한인생) is a 2005 South Korean film by Kim Ji-woon. Highly cultural and ruthlessly violent, it illustrates the ethical codes in the Korean mob and how they clash with personal morality.


Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) is an enforcer and manager for a hotel owned by a cold, calculating crime boss, Kang (Kim Yeong-cheol), to whom he is unquestionably loyal. The two share concerns over business tensions with Baek Jr., a son from a rival family, which is when Kang assigns Sun-Woo what is perceived (at first) to be a simple errand while he is away on a business trip — to shadow his young mistress, Heesoo (Shin Min-a), for fear that she may be cheating on him with another, much younger man, with the mandate that he must kill them both if he discovers their affair. As he performs his duty — following Heesoo, and escorting her to a music recital one day — he becomes quietly enthralled by the girl's beauty and innocence, as glimpses into his lonely, empty personal life become more prevalent.

When he does come to discover Heesoo's secret lover directly in her home, he fiercely beats him, but seeing the girl's traumatized state causes him to take pause, pulled by his attraction to her. He thus spares the two on the condition that they no longer see each other again, causing her to harbour enmity towards him, despite the fact he had saved their lives at his own expense.


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